São Paulo Statement on the Economy of Life

In late September, 2012, economists, church leaders, activists, politicians and theologians gathered in  São Paulo, Brazil, to respond to and continue work around issues of economic, social and ecological justice. Together, these ecumenical leaders envisioned an alternative global financial and economic architecture, building on several seminal confessions, statements and call’s to action from the last decade. The São Paulo Statement: International Financial Transformation for the Economy of Life is well-worth a read. In particular, I was inspired by the introductory creed on pages 3 and 4.

The manifesto follows a format of rejection and affirmation, thus: We reject the explosion of monetisation and the commodification of all of life, an economy that is driven by debt and financialisation, the ideology of consumerism, increasing individualistic consumerism, an economy of over-consumption and greed, neoliberal capitalism which conditions us psychologically to desire more and more, and the economic abstraction of Homo Oeconomicus which constructs the human person as being essentially insatiable and selfish. We affirm a theology of grace, an economy of forgiveness, caring and justice, an economy of Manna which provides sufficiently for all and negates the idea of greed, the diversity and interconnectedness of life and interdependent relationships with the created order, an economy of sufficiency that promotes restraint, and that we are called to think not only of our own interests but also of the interests of others. This hardly does it justice so jump on over and read it in full here.

The São Paulo Statement acknowledges the historical imperative of “Critical theological reflection on the material and collective bases of life [which] has been intrinsic to the call to be faithful disciples of Christ and has expressed itself through theological contemplative praxis that has sought transformative liberation from unjust socio‐political, cultural and economic structures, thereby promoting the fullness of life for all creation.” Calling on a new alternative imagination derived from spiritual and theological convictions, the statement lays out a framework and call to action for a new international financial and economic architecture

The creed and subsequent economic reimagining has at its core a perception of humanity embedded in communal relationships; a philosophy that is articulated in many different cultural concepts around the globe, from the Hebrew Shalom, to the South African Ubuntu, Korean Sansaeng, Quechuan Sumak kawsay or Buen Vivir which has recently been incorporated into the constitutions of both Ecuador and Bolivia. I would love to hear thoughts both on the unequivocal creed included in this Statement as well as thoughts on how communal philosophies can impact personal and social economic life?

Valerie Anderson

Valerie Anderson coordinates Operations at Common Change. She received her MPhil in Development Studies from the University of Cape Town and has spent the last 6 years establishing and maintaining a range of community development projects both in her home country, South Africa, and in low-income urban areas in the United States. She is a writer, problem-solver and strategist and loves to create environments in which others can thrive. Valerie and her husband, Brett Fish, have recently returned to their beautiful home city, Cape Town. You can find more of Val’s writing at valanderson.wordpress.com

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